Rescued a Chaco Tortoise

cafetortoni

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Jan 7, 2021
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Argentina
Hello, help is appreciated. I did not ever own tortoises before this and while I've been reading quite a bit, I'm still somewhat worried about this rescue tort.

My family and I found the tortoise walking (running) around while they were parking the car. We spoke to different neighbors to see if we could find the owner but no luck with that. After I took it to the vet I was told the tortoise had been given a bad diet and that because of it, it could be possible he develops breathing issues in the future (his shell doesn't have a good shape). The vets discouraged the idea of finding the owner for these reasons. For now he seems fine, he was a bit thin and I'm working with the vet to get him to eat a good variety of vegetables (which he does not appreciate at all).

His first week required a lot of baby sitting, basically. He had a lot of energy, ran around, curious about everything, tried to climb anything in sight. He started flashing at the third day or so. Not a lot and he would always quickly put it back in without difficulty. Then he went to sleep one night, and in the morning he didn't come out, didn't even seem to have woken up. He was still alive and didn't seem to have anything wrong, so I let him be. He slept through 24 hours and he still wouldn't wake up/come out. At 36 hours I took him out from his hide to see if he was ok.

Ever since then his behavior completely changed. He doesn't run around anymore, he doesn't bask in the sun, he still eats more or less the same amount ( but even during the first week it was hard to get him to eat, it's like he doesn't recognize food unless it's in your hand), he's been hiding in shadowy areas for some days now, but in the last two days he's stopped hiding, but still doesn't do much. He still walks some, it's just that he restricted his walking to a 1/3 of what it was during the first week.

Some extra info:
Yes, it's a Chaco tortoise. I live in Argentina and they're pretty common pets (not "well cared for" pets, that's why I'm here).
The vet told me he is about 20 years old
He wakes up anytime from 7 to 9 AM and stays up for about 12 hours. This was the same during the first week as well.
It's summer over here, we've been in the 30°C pretty consistently too, but just in case the temperature lowers I got him a heat lamp
He's had BM about three times in the first week, not as solid as I would have hoped for but we are already working on incorporating the fiber he needs (and hates). But no BM ever since the big change.
His pee used to be a few droplets every 10 cm he walked, and he walked a lot, pee as far as the eye could see. After the first week, it's just a huge puddle about once or twice a day.
I did not take him from the wild! Chaco Tortoises aren't from the area I live in. We found him inside a fenced neighborhood with loose dogs and passing cars.

Thank you for reading!
 

crimson_lotus

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the chaco tortoise might actually be wild as they are indeed from Argentina. that breed is already known not to do well in captivity, so my suggestion is you keep it outside in its natural habitat in a garden or something
 

TeamZissou

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Super cool. While they are native to the Gran Chaco, they are commonly kept as pets in Argentina, so it's not out of the question finding one if you're near a city.

The first thing to do is to make sure he's getting enough hydration. Place the tortoise in a bucket or other container that he cannot climb out of with about 1-2" (25-50 mm) of warm water for 30 mins. This will help the tortoise get hydrated. Dehydration could be a factor in the behavior change you saw.

What size enclosure are you keeping him in? It would be probably be good to make an outdoor enclosure if you have the room.

Post some photos of the tortoise. If you can, let us know the weight of the tortoise as well.
 

cafetortoni

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Argentina
the chaco tortoise might actually be wild as they are indeed from Argentina. that breed is already known not to do well in captivity, so my suggestion is you keep it outside in its natural habitat in a garden or something
So Argentina is a big, big country. And as I've said, the tortoise is not from the area I live in, we're pretty far away. The breed does not do well in captivity, yes, in places like the US. Over here? Chaco tortoises are some of the most common pets and even the most obtuse owner can have them living well, well past 30 years
But it is true that it was wild caught, captive breeding is pretty difficult and for the people who profit off them it's way easier to snatch some babies and contraband them. All Chaco tortoises "pets" are wild caught over here. I do not agree with it, it's just what it is. Still, there isn't a relocation program and not much I can do with Covid restrictions.



Super cool. While they are native to the Gran Chaco, they are commonly kept as pets in Argentina, so it's not out of the question finding one if you're near a city.

The first thing to do is to make sure he's getting enough hydration. Place the tortoise in a bucket or other container that he cannot climb out of with about 1-2" (25-50 mm) of warm water for 30 mins. This will help the tortoise get hydrated. Dehydration could be a factor in the behavior change you saw.

What size enclosure are you keeping him in? It would be probably be good to make an outdoor enclosure if you have the room.

Post some photos of the tortoise. If you can, let us know the weight of the tortoise as well.

I don't have a way to measure it's weight right now, I'll let you know when I can. The vet (she works with tortoises so I trust her) said that while it was a bit thin it wasn't that bad and that he had strength.

I've been giving him soaks, yes. We think he was dehydrated when we first found him because he drank *a lot*. He also drinks during the soaks always and sometimes out of a very shallow container that always has fresh water. Right now he doesn't have an enclosure because well, I wasn't planning on getting a tortoise. I'm working on a 200 cm x 80 cm indoors enclosure which is the best I can do right now while he also has full access to a safe balcony where he spent most of his time the first week but these days doesn't really want anything to do with it.

I'll try to get some photos of him. The camera in my phone is pretty bad.
 

turtlesteve

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So Argentina is a big, big country. And as I've said, the tortoise is not from the area I live in, we're pretty far away. The breed does not do well in captivity, yes, in places like the US. Over here? Chaco tortoises are some of the most common pets and even the most obtuse owner can have them living well, well past 30 years
But it is true that it was wild caught, captive breeding is pretty difficult and for the people who profit off them it's way easier to snatch some babies and contraband them. All Chaco tortoises "pets" are wild caught over here. I do not agree with it, it's just what it is. Still, there isn't a relocation program and not much I can do with Covid restrictions.





I don't have a way to measure it's weight right now, I'll let you know when I can. The vet (she works with tortoises so I trust her) said that while it was a bit thin it wasn't that bad and that he had strength.

I've been giving him soaks, yes. We think he was dehydrated when we first found him because he drank *a lot*. He also drinks during the soaks always and sometimes out of a very shallow container that always has fresh water. Right now he doesn't have an enclosure because well, I wasn't planning on getting a tortoise. I'm working on a 200 cm x 80 cm indoors enclosure which is the best I can do right now while he also has full access to a safe balcony where he spent most of his time the first week but these days doesn't really want anything to do with it.

I'll try to get some photos of him. The camera in my phone is pretty bad.

Good on you for rescuing him! Yes, it’s true that they are rare here in the US. They are not too hard to care for if healthy, but most that were imported to the US (decades ago) did not survive - likely due to disease, stress, or dehydration. Only a handful of people here still have them.

Sounds like you are doing well with him so far. I would not expect him to be that active on very hot days, except for a few hours in the morning. As far as diet is concerned, he may be picky and refuse food if he’s used to being fed a a “junk food” diet (such as fruit every day). Some fruit is OK but keep it to maybe 10% of his diet. The rest should be leafy greens / weeds and optunia cactus pads.

The hyperactive behavior and flashing you describe could mean he was “in the mood” and looking for a female. Not abnormal behavior for early summer.

Steve
 

cafetortoni

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Argentina
Good on you for rescuing him! Yes, it’s true that they are rare here in the US. They are not too hard to care for if healthy, but most that were imported to the US (decades ago) did not survive - likely due to disease, stress, or dehydration. Only a handful of people here still have them.

Sounds like you are doing well with him so far. I would not expect him to be that active on very hot days, except for a few hours in the morning. As far as diet is concerned, he may be picky and refuse food if he’s used to being fed a a “junk food” diet (such as fruit every day). Some fruit is OK but keep it to maybe 10% of his diet. The rest should be leafy greens / weeds and optunia cactus pads.

The hyperactive behavior and flashing you describe could mean he was “in the mood” and looking for a female. Not abnormal behavior for early summer.

Steve

Yes, our theory right now is that he escaped from his owners when he started to look for hot singles in his area. It *is* about mating season for them over here. I'm glad someone else thinks that hyper behavior was about that. He hasn't flashed anymore too, so that raised my suspicions.

And yes, he's the pickiest animal I've ever seen. I started to make him a "salad" pretty early on, cutting everything into small pieces and mixing well in hopes he wouldn't get to pick. Well, it worked more or less. One day I saw his plate picked clean *except* for the pumpkin which he strategically left alone all over the plate. I think the owners fed him exclusively cucumber because that's the only thing he accepts easily.

And thank you! I'm pretty worried as it is, suddenly caring for an animal I didn't plan for. But it's great to have some good news.
 

cafetortoni

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Nevermind, everyone. He's hyperactive again, pooping and peeing a lot, trying to eat his feces, which have a much better consistency. He is very curious, basking in the balcony from time to time as well. He hasn't eaten much yet, though, which is still in character for him as he never eats a lot, I guess.

I wonder what makes his behavior change so drastically. Today was also very hot, the only difference is that I went out for a few hours for the first time since we've had him here.

Thank you all for your time. For now, he seems exasperatingly healthy.
 

Yossarian

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You might need to mix up some things that are good for the tort in with some of the things it likes but are not so good, this way you can get him to start eating more variety. If you chop up cucumber and mix it with greens (fine enough that he cant be selective) then he can start to get a taste for the new foods.
 

cafetortoni

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You might need to mix up some things that are good for the tort in with some of the things it likes but are not so good, this way you can get him to start eating more variety. If you chop up cucumber and mix it with greens (fine enough that he cant be selective) then he can start to get a taste for the new foods.
That is exactly what I do! I chop everything up in very small pieces and mix it all together. It works most of the time. We're also slipping a bit of... I don't want to call it mazuri because it's not exactly that, but it's a type of kibble like that the vet recommended. I grind it very finely and mix it with his food
 

Yossarian

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That is exactly what I do! I chop everything up in very small pieces and mix it all together. It works most of the time. We're also slipping a bit of... I don't want to call it mazuri because it's not exactly that, but it's a type of kibble like that the vet recommended. I grind it very finely and mix it with his food

Have you tried feeding prickly pear cactus pads?
 

TammyJ

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It would be so great to see some pictures. Thanks for helping him, I am sure he appreciates it!
 

cafetortoni

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sorry for the wait on the pics to the people that asked for them, I had to go on a trip. My mom took care of him though and he's 600 g now. The vet seems satisfied. The photos are from before he gained weight, on one of the trips to the vet (I feel bad getting too close to him for pictures so I try to avoid it, just so he doesn't get scared). Right now I think he doesn't recognize me 😭
I am told he is eating a lot, too. So it seems he got a lot better. Thank you to everyone that replied on this thread

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